United States Steel Great Lakes Works

Great Lakes Works is a steel finishing facility operated by United States Steel, situated along the Detroit River near Detroit, Michigan. It was previously an integrated steel mill featuring three blast furnaces.


Samuel Zug bought 325 acres of marshy land near Fort Wayne from Delray in 1876, aiming to build a luxurious estate on the Detroit River. 3 However, the land was too damp, and he left the property ten years later.

In 1888, Zug allowed the River Rouge Improvement Company to cut a canal through the southern part of his property to better connect the Rouge River with the Detroit River. 3 This Short Cut Canal was expanded in the early 1920s by Henry Ford to facilitate large ships’ navigation to the Ford River Rouge Complex.

Zug sold his island in 1891 for $300,000 to industries that wanted to use it as a dumping ground. 3

In 1901, the Detroit Iron Works began ironmaking on Zug Island by building a blast furnace in 1902. 2 In 1904, the M.A. Hanna Company of Cleveland, Ohio, bought the works and added a second blast furnace in 1909. The furnaces produced pig iron for foundries.

The plant expanded and became part of the Great Lakes Steel Corporation in late 1931, integrating into a larger steel mill as a division of National Steel Corporation. 2 A third blast furnace was added in 1938, and the existing furnaces were rebuilt and enlarged.

National Steel employed over 16,000 workers at Zug Island in the late 1940s. 2

After National Steel declared bankruptcy in 2002, United States Steel (USS) bought the facilities for $850 million in 2003, naming them Great Lakes Works. 1 2 4 The island maintained ironmaking facilities, including three blast furnaces, raw material storage, docks, and a coke battery. Iron from Zug Island was transported by rail to processing facilities in Ecorse.

USS temporarily stopped production at Great Lakes Works in 2008 due to an economic downturn but resumed a year later. 2 In December 2019, USS announced it would permanently shut down steelmaking facilities at Great Lakes Works, resulting in the layoff of 1,545 employees. 2 4 Steel production ended in April 2020.

As of 2024, Great Lakes Works offers steel finishing facilities primarily serving the automotive industry, including:

  • Three blast vessels
  • Vacuum degasser
  • Ladle metallurgy facility
  • 80″ pickle line
  • 80″ 5-stand cold reduction mill
  • 80″ temper mill
  • 73″ hot-dip galvanizing line
  • Batch annealing facility

Facilities that have been permanently idled include:

  • Two top-blown basic oxygen process (BOP) vessels that were permanently idled in 202X
  • Two continuous slab casters
  • 80″ hot strip mill




  1. GREAT LAKES STEEL WORKS, MICHIGAN.” The Center for Land Use Interpretation.
  2. Witsil, Frank. “Steel mill at Zug Island still operating with a fraction of the workforce it once had.” Detroit Free Press, 5 Jan. 2021.
  3. Rubin, Neil. “Mill workers at Zug Island steel themselves for the end.” Detroit News, 19 Apr. 2020.
  4. Thibodeau, Ian and Kalea Hall. “Layoffs loom at U.S. Steel’s Zug Island mill despite tariffs.” Detroit News, 20 Dec. 2019.


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